By Sherry Kughn, for The Alabama Baptist

Anne Powers was an impressionable young mother of a small daughter when she and her husband Orbie returned home after his World War II military service. Back in Anniston, Powers met a doctor’s wife at the church she attended, Parker Memorial Baptist Church, and her eyes were opened to a new perspective on missions that has lasted 75 years.

“Flora Woodruff was a wonderful person,” said Powers who turned 100 years old June 15. “She was on fire to help missionaries through the Woman’s Missionary Union. I got interested through her.”

That fiery torch seemed to pass to Powers who has carried it forward many decades after Woodruff’s passing. Lottie Moon, an early missionary to China, and Annie Armstrong, one of the founders of the WMU, became well known in Powers’ household.

Powers, who was born in 1922, often hosted in her home one of the 10 groups that met regularly and were part of the 100-member WMU group that met monthly at the church building. Under Woodruff’s leadership, they learned about the missionaries, their families and their hardships. They prayed, raised money and contributed to the WMU, a practice that Powers has never stopped, despite having two more daughters. Even today, she meets monthly with a WMU group called Women on Mission.

Prayer warrior

Anne 2
Anne Powers greets guests who came to celebrate her 100th birthday on June 15, 2022. (Photo by Sherry Kughn)

In addition, she spends two hours a week as part of a rotating group of volunteers who pray from a special room set up at Parker. As sunlight streams through a stained-glass window there, hardly an hour passes without someone coming in to pray for the people whose names are written on cards kept updated by the church staff. When Parker kept a house for missionaries on furlough, she helped ensure the missionary house was kept well-furnished and in good repair. She often entertained missionaries in her home and recalled those who retired to Anniston and became close friends.

These days, Powers still can be found at Parker Memorial on Sunday mornings, sitting on a front pew with family members. She has a lively personality and stays engaged with fellow Christians who are decades younger than herself. She attends fellowships and special events.

Her faithfulness to God has consumed much of her time throughout her life. When asked what other interests she has had, she recounts more activities involving the church: she taught Sunday School for 60 years, 22 of them as a teacher who taught other teachers, and she volunteered with Anniston’s Interfaith ministries for about 16 years on its executive committee and raised money to care for the city’s needy residents. Also, she sang for years with the church’s Sounds of Joy group that visited nursing facilities.

“I guess my life has always been involved with the church,” she said.

Helping troubled youth

Powers was interested in her community too. She was a member of a women’s civic group that helped establish what has become the Coosa Valley Youth Services. Today, it covers a 10-county area and provides alternative sentences and treatments for hundreds of troubled teens, which it has done since the mid-1970s. During a past interview, she recalled the horror of seeing incarcerated teenagers sitting on the concrete floor of a jail cell with nothing to do. The women’s group secured mattresses and a television for the troubled teens, and she worked with a local judge to secure a building and continue improvement of the services offered to the young people.

Orbie and Anne Powers contributed money on a regular basis to WMU. She told how she once received a windfall and sent $2,500 to a village in India for the construction of a water well. Another time, she paid for water to be piped into an overseas missionary’s house. Powers, now a widow, still contributes to WMU.

Orbie lived to be 88 years old, after a life struggling from time to time with a disease that affected his leg muscles. Two of their three daughters have the same disease. Years ago, one of her granddaughters was killed in a car wreck, and one of her daughters died from natural causes a short time ago.

During those difficult times, Powers’ church members returned to her some of the same words of encouragement and prayers she had always given to them. Also, her faith in Christ gave her the hope and strength she needed to press forward.

‘None more faithful’

Powers’ empathy for missionaries remains strong. She studies her WMU magazine (“Missions Mosaic”) each month and imagines herself in the shoes of the missionaries whose stories are in the magazine’s pages. She prays about each of them.

“Missionaries are just like us,” Powers said. “They get sick, they go through surgeries, they have hard times. Sometimes they die.”

She thanks God for those who spread the gospel overseas and in the U.S., like Diane Smith, a Mission Service Corps volunteer serving the needy in Anniston. Smith is often on Powers’ prayer list, as are chaplains and volunteers in various missions roles.

What began 75 years ago through the influence of another missions-minded woman will continue, Powers said, because she looks forward to being in heaven and meeting, among others, the missionaries she has prayed for throughout the years.

“I have pastored people who have been older than her, but none more faithful and active in their longevity,” said Mack Amis, pastor of Parker Memorial. “For her, she is steady. Even through COVID, she never stopped coming to services. She is a pillar. You could live five lifetimes and never encounter anyone like her.”

This story republished with permission from TAB Media Group. This article also appeared in Fruitful, a special publication produced by TAB Media in partnership with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.